Identification and differentiation of methcathinone analogs by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry


Correspondence to: Kenji Tsujikawa, National Research Institute of Police Science, 6-3-1, Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-0882, Japan.



To overcome a number of challenges involved in analyzing methcathinone (MC) analogues, we performed gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis, including sample preparation, of nine MC analogues − 4-methylmethcathinone, three positional isomers of fluoromethcathinones, 4-methoxymethcathinone, N-ethylcathinone, N,N-dimethylcathinone, buphedrone, and pentedrone. The MC analogues underwent dehydrogenation when the free bases were analyzed using splitless injection. Most of this thermal degradation was prevented using split injection. This indicated that a shorter residence time in the hot injector prevented decomposition. Uniquely, 2-fluoromethcathinone degraded to another product in a process that could not be prevented by the split injection. Replacing the liner with a new, clean one was also effective in preventing thermal degradation. Most of the analytes showed a substantial loss (>30%) when the free base solution in ethyl acetate was evaporated under a nitrogen stream. Adding a small amount of dimethylformamide as a solvent keeper had a noticeable effect, but it did not completely prevent the loss. Three positional isomers of fluoromethcathinones were separated with baseline resolution by heptafluorobutyrylation with a slow column heating rate (8 °C/min) using a non-polar DB-5 ms capillary column. These results will be useful for the forensic analysis of MC analogues in confiscated materials. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.